Estimating the upper limit of prehistoric peak ground acceleration using an in situ, intact and vulnerable stalagmite from Plavecká priepast cave (Detrekői-zsomboly), Little Carpathians, Slovakia—first results

K. Gribovszki, K. Kovács, P. Mónus, G. Bokelmann, P. Konecny, M. Lednická, G. Moseley, C. Spötl, Larry Edwards, M. Bednárik, L. Brimich, L. Tóth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Earthquakes hit urban centres in Europe infrequently, but occasionally with disastrous effects. Obtaining an unbiased view of seismic hazard (and risk) is therefore very important. In principle, the best way to test probabilistic seismic hazard assessments (PSHAs) is to compare them with observations that are entirely independent of the procedure used to produce PSHA models. Arguably, the most valuable information in this context should be information on long-term hazard, namely maximum intensities (or magnitudes) occurring over time intervals that are at least as long as a seismic cycle. The new observations can provide information of maximum intensity (or magnitude) for long timescale as an input data for PSHA studies as well. Long-term information can be gained from intact stalagmites in natural caves. These formations survived all earthquakes that have occurred over thousands of years, depending on the age of the stalagmite. Their ‘survival’ requires that the horizontal ground acceleration (HGA) has never exceeded a certain critical value within that time period. Here, we present such a stalagmite-based case study from the Little Carpathians of Slovakia. A specially shaped, intact and vulnerable stalagmite in the Plavecká priepast cave was examined in 2013. This stalagmite is suitable for estimating the upper limit of horizontal peak ground acceleration generated by prehistoric earthquakes. The critical HGA values as a function of time going back into the past determined from the stalagmite that we investigated are presented. For example, at the time of Jókő event (1906), the critical HGA value cannot have been higher than 1 and 1.3 m/s2 at the time of the assumed Carnuntum event (∼340 AD), and 3000 years ago, it must have been lower than 1.7 m/s2. We claimed that the effect of Jókő earthquake (1906) on the location of the Plavecká priepast cave is consistent with the critical HGA value provided by the stalagmite we investigated. The approach used in this study yields significant new constraints on the seismic hazard, as tectonic structures close to Plavecká priepast cave did not generate strong earthquakes in the last few thousand years. The results of this study are highly relevant given that the two capitals, Vienna and Bratislava, are located within 40 and 70 km of the cave, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1130
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Seismology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Open access funding provided by University of Vienna. The in situ measurements in the Plavecká priepast cave were supported by the Österreichischer Austauschdienst (No. ICM-2012-00497) and the Department of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Vienna. The authors wish to thank Ferenc Kovács, Pavel Stanik (Slovak Cave Administration), Peter Magdolen and Marek Velsmid for professional support in the cave. We are also grateful to Kamil Soucek for the tomographic image of a broken stalagmite from the Plavecká priepast cave.

Funding Information:
The paper was written within the scope of a project of the Institute of Clean Technologies for Mining and Utilization of Raw Materials for Energy Use—Sustainability Programme, reg. no. LO1406, which is supported by the Research and Development for Innovations Operational Programme financed by the Structural Funds of the European Union and the State Budget of the Czech Republic.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, The Author(s).


  • Cantilever beam
  • Natural frequency
  • Peak ground acceleration
  • Prehistoric earthquake
  • Seismic hazard
  • Speleology
  • Speleoseismology
  • Stalagmite


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